As world leaders ponder how to remedy the global economic mess, a shout-out to the team at the Starbucks at Third Avenue and 23rd Street in Manhattan, for acting as though life is good. As though they do not work for a company that has closed hundreds of stores and live in a city where Wall Street's woes have made it possible to get a restaurant reservation after 5:30 and before 10:30 on a weekend, where hotels are still proclaiming "winter sales" in a desperate attempt to draw customers, where landlords are slashing rents and offering places to people with less than sterling credit.
On that last bit, actually, my search for a closet-sized apartment for the NYU daughter yielded primarily corporate landlords and realtors of questionable expertise who wanted me to prove that I earn 100 times the still-stiff rents. Please email me immediately if you know how to get in touch with the more benevolent landlords other people seem to be dealing with.
But back to Starbucks, where the crew does all of the following: They greet customers with genuine good cheer, with the latte version of whatever it is that sushi chefs holler when you walk in the door. They make eye contact, they fill orders promptly, they rarely make mistakes, and if they do they correct them promptly, with an apology. They wipe down the counters and the tables and restock the milk and sugar before they need to, and when the undergrad who had imbibed something that was not coffee fell into a stupor than spanned three chairs at the counter, they gently woke him up, guided him out the door, and really cleaned the space he had inhabited before they let anybody else sit down. They remember regulars' regular drinks, even if these days it's likelier to be a cheaper drip.
One afternoon I ordered a cold drink before I realized that I had grabbed my Metrocard instead of my Starbucks card and had no cash. They gave it to me anyhow and said I could pay for it the next time I came in.
So this morning, when I went in to buy what would be the last cappuccino of the trip, I felt sad. I realized that I had probably gone in for coffee more often than I otherwise might have -- the hotel had free joe on the tenth floor -- because it was such a pleasant experience. On the southwest corner of Third Avenue and 23rd Street, I witnessed two performances daily of life as it once was, when we all felt pretty okay.
Go visit if you're in the neighborhood. There has been a lot of talk lately about the psychology of economics, and about President Obama's optimism -- not the silly Pollyanna kind, but an informed, determined alternative to gloom and doom. Attitude is supposed to matter. If it does, the gang at this particular Starbucks could be the start of something big.
And if you're a regular, please let them know what the dark-haired woman with the ponytail and the glasses had to say. After you send me the contact info about the kindly landlords, that is. Studio. Somewhere in the general vicinity of NYU. Please.